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I recently up-voted a savvy comment which implied that the OP should take a fresh look at his question. Then I noticed that there were more, currently hidden, comments. Only after I clicked to reveal these was it was apparent that the OP had already taken the savvy comment on board, and so there was no point in up-voting it. My question is: why not just show all the comments in the first place? You need to see them all to assess how to respond to them, in any case.

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    $\begingroup$ There are threads (in meta, mind you) with close to 100 comments (or more). Not hiding those chains would make it more difficult to read the thread. The same applies in main even though the length of a comment chains rarely exceeds 20. Comments are meant to be (by SE design) less important than answers. This is reflected here in the sense that showing answers has a higher priority than showing comments. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Dec 19 '14 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen: OK, it's reasonable to curtail the display of abnormally long chains of comments. But typically only a few comments are hidden, far fewer than the number showing. I don't think that this cutting the tails of the comments makes the reading easier. If the question or answer interests me, then I read the comments, which are often interesting too. I've never felt that comments are clutter. Also, occasionally scrolling is much quicker and easier than frequently locating and clicking on tabs. $\endgroup$ – John Bentin Dec 19 '14 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ John, I agree to an extent. This has annoyed me on occasion, too. But I have largely gotten used to it. I think that the reasons why it is coded the way it is are related to those listed in my first comment. That is just the impression I have. I could be wrong about this. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Dec 19 '14 at 18:40
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There has to be some limit on how many comments are shown. The site shows $n$ most voted comments, not $n$ first or most recent, with the idea that the comments worth showing are those that make important observations about the post. This design is also meant to suppress discussion threads consisting of comments replying to other comments replying to other comments. If you need to see other comments to understand the meaning of a comment, that probably means the thread needs a clean-up (in your case, that savvy comment should have been deleted as obsolete).

Another benefit of limiting the number of comments is technical: it keeps the HTML source of the page short and focused on the actual question & answers. This helps search engines better "understand" what the page is about, without being confused by tangential remarks. SE lives and dies by its Google page rank.

You can also read Jeff Atwood's explanation at Comments: Top n Shown

(For the record, $n=5$ on main site and $n=15$ on meta sites.)

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